The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono has revealed that the Federal Government has resolved to inject over N600 billion (US$1.5 billion) as stimulus-response into the agriculture sector, targetting small scale farmers, to ensure food security and sustainability.
The Minister stated this while on a weekend tour of Dangote Fertilizer Plant, and a crucial meeting with other Fertilizer companies in Lagos State, to galvanize their cooperation for input production.
Nanono had explained that the well over N600 billion stimulus-response which targets farmers nationwide will take off with an initial 2.4 million farmers in the first instance.
He also noted that to avoid the abuse of government funds and good intentions, the support will be in kind in the form of inputs and not cash as was the practice in the past.
The Minister added that the forceful closure of all International borders, necessitated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, has made it evident that Nigeria can conveniently and sustainably feed itself.
The Minister had commenced his tour with a courtesy call on the Executive Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Babajide Sanwo-Olu where he pledged to support the state farming communities with rural roads, solar lighting, and water holes so as to encourage and empower them to increase productivity.
He also promised to collaborate with Lagos State Government in the fishing sector in order to tap the potentials of its marine endowments and drastically reduce the importation of fish in Nigeria.
In his response, Babajide Sanwo – Olu who had received the Minister in the company of his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and other State officials, promised to collaborate with the Federal Government not only in the fishing sector but also to join forces in the Federal government’s effort to embark on mechanized farming.
Sanwo-Olu while recognizing agriculture as a critical component of development stated that he will complement the Federal Governments effort when he completes his project, the largest rice mill in Nigeria with a capacity to mill approximately 30 Million Metric Tons of rice per annum.
This he said will help Nigeria focus more on the exportation of rice and downward review of prices at the retail market.
The Governor said that Lagos State is presumably the largest retail market for agricultural products as well as the largest enabler in the industry with Dangote Fertilizer Plant cited in its domain.
In another engagement over dinner, the Minister and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Abdulkadir Mu’azu, had interacted with Agro -Input Dealers in Lagos to discuss the quality, affordability, and availability of fertilizer in the country.
The big player, Dangote Group and other fertilizer blending companies, Premium Agro Limited, Elephant Group and Kewalram Group stated that raw materials for fertilizer blending, most especially Ammonium phosphate, is the major challenge they face.
However, the cheery news is that Dangote Group is considering the exploration of local sources for the raw materials which they are hopeful and confident that once the domestic source is remedied, the problem of fertilizer shortfall will become history in the country.
The Minister was overwhelmed with this revelation and is of the opinion that with the impressive strategies initiated by the Dangote Group, the outcome will change the narrative of agriculture, food production/ Fertilizer availability and the nation’s economy for good before the close of 2020.